16th Century Christian Cabalah (1200-1299)
These pages are excerpts from the book, Kabbalah's Secret Circles, by Robert Zucker. Read more sample chapters and download a free PDF sample compliments of the author.
As the Jewish community circulated tales about golems and the superhuman powers of Kabbalah, the Christian community took notice. They adapted some of the Kabbalah’s teachings to their own perspective and gave it religious approval.
In 1517 Christian Cabalist Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522) published DE ARTE CABALISTICA (ON THE ART OF THE KABBALAH) with a discussion on the golem and a section on the SEPHER YETZIRAH.
This copy was more widely available than other books about the Kabbalah and the golem. Reuchlin, a contemporary of Lodovicio Lazzarelli, was one of the architects of the Christian Cabala movement who also defended attacks against Jewish scholars.
He retold the ancient story about Jeremiah the Prophet and his son Ben Sira and attributes it to Tannaite Judah ben Bathyra– one of the Elders of Bathyra during the Destruction of the 2nd Temple. He wrote that Jeremiah would busy himself with the SEPHER YETZIRAH and a voice told him to find a companion to help study.
His son Sira and him studied it for three years. They eventually create a man (golem) with the letters YHYH Elohim Ameth (“God is truth”) on his forehead and erase the Aleph from the word AMT to destroy it.
The first Latin edition of SEPHER YETZIRAH of Christian scholarship was printed in 1552 by Gulielmus Postellus (Postel) 456 of Paris, France. He translated the SEPHER YETZIRAH from Hebrew to Latin ten years before the first Hebrew edition was printed.
A second Latin version was printed 25 years later under the title of ABRAHAM, PATRIARCH, BOOK OF YETZIRAH: “Abrahami Patriarchae Liber Jezirah, sive Formationis Mundi, Patribus quidem expositus Isaaco, et per Proetarum manus posteritati conservatis, ipsis autum 72 Mosis auditoribus in secund divine veritatis loco, hoc est in ratione, quoe est posterior authiritate, habitus. Vertebat ex Hebrais et commentaris illustrabad 1551, ad Babylonis ruinam et corrupti mundi finem, Gulielmus Postellus, Restitutus. Paris, 1552. (“The SEPHER YETZIRAH of the Patriarch Abraham; or the creation of the world, revealed by the ancients in the time of Abraham expounded to Isaac, and which was conserved in the caring hands of posterity...Translated from the Hebrew and accompanied by commentaries... William Postel(lus) Restored (Gulielmus?)”)
A.E. Waite used Postel’s translation in his edition in 1902.
German physician and theologian Heinrich Cornelious Agrippa of Nettesheim (1486-1535) published a three-volume study in 1533 on Hermetics, Kabbalistic and occult philosophy called DE OCCULTA PHILOSOPHIA LIBRI III (THREE BOOKS OF OCCULT PHILOSOPHY).
These books, still available today, provide a comprehensive study of astrology, Hermetics, Kabbalah, the angels and the various names of God. Agrippa proposed the concept of a homunculus (Latin for “little man”), an artificial being.
Swiss German philosopher, occultist, botanist and physician Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim better known as Paracelsus (1493-1541) believed that natural philosophers could create life.
He detailed how to create a generatio homunculi (“little man”)– a body without a soul– in his book DE HOMUNCULUS (c 1529-1532) and in DE NATURA RERUM (1537) where the Latin word homunculus first appeared in writing.
The homunculus has been compared to the golem in Jewish folklore, although Paracelsus didn’t make use of known golem instructions. Instead, he had his own method. Paracelsus believed that alchemy can be used to create a homunculus– a fully formed human being developed from a fetus using sperm that is putrefied for forty days, or until it begins to move on its own.
The homunculus was brought to life through an alchemical process, while the golem receives its spark of life through the recitation of permutated letters. Homunculi-type characters eventually appeared in 20th century animations, books, film, television and fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons (1974). Around the same time, German historian and occultist Johannes Pistorius Niddanus (the Younger, 1546-1608) published a second Latin version of the Christian Cabalah in 1587– the first and only volume of ARTIS CABALISTICAE SCRIPTORES.
A third Latin translation was made about 60 years later. This differed from Postellus’s version published 35 years earlier. Some say either Paolo Ricco or Johann Reuchlin actually wrote it.
Read more sample chapters and download a free PDF sample compliments of the author from the book, Kabbalah's Secret Circles.